It's been a while since I came back from the University of Wyoming and I have to say everything has been unforgettable. There are several times I dreamed about the old days that we raced together and coaches cheered for us. But it’s not real which made me depressed. This is the most precious pearl in my memory. I do miss skiing on the snow, like flying in the sky .There are sunshine , birds, and animals I don’t even know its name, everything is just right, as if in the magic world. Now I am busy looking for a job and graduation, but every time I think of snow, I feel very sacred, and my heart is very peaceful and quiet. I have to say that I really miss my coaches and teammates a lot. They are the most beautiful scenery in my journey. They have taught me a lot both in skiing and life. I will keep this precious experience in my heart and wish all the best for my caring people over the Pacific! Love you all!
I love being outside. But sometimes, it’s kind of hard to drag myself out the door and get started. I always feel better after I’ve spent some time hiking or backpacking or skiing. That’s why when I came to college, the ski team was such a big part of my self-regulation. We traveled together. We spent practice in the mountains going on long trail runs or gorgeous skis. We would wake up early and start the day with a jog and strength workout or get through a long week with core and yoga in the evenings. It’s was easy to be outside all the time when I just had to be ready to jump in Zima and spend the day hanging out with the team.
I admit that the constant schedule for an outdoor adventure was something I really missed when I packed my life into boxes and moved to Spain for a semester. It was wonderful in a different way, until it wasn’t. A year ago, the world stopped. As many people familiar with lockdowns can attest, being trapped inside a small apartment does something to you psychologically. The fact that I was isolated with a family I’d met only weeks before in a country I was still new to was really just fuel to the fire. After the first few days, I was daydreaming about going for runs through the city. Which would be fairly normal, except that I hate running. The itch to go outside, do anything outside, was becoming unbearable. There was a near-constant ache in my chest for the days of ski camps, where I’d wake up to the sounds of Ella’s laughter or the smell of coach’s oats and then spend the day outside, surrounded by snow and the gentle sound of skis in tracks. I was jonesing for the mountains. In fact, it was the first time in my life I’d ever been homesick.
So when I finally took the treacherous journey through three airports and a hotel to get back to Wyoming, I thought I would feel better. The mountains were there, right in my backyard. I could go on runs (or less torturous activities) to my heart’s content. But the switch had flipped. I couldn’t stand to leave the house. It was more than that initial hurdle to get dressed and drive to the trail. All I could think about was the family I left behind. As the days added up, I thought of my young host sister, who hadn’t left her apartment even for a walk in weeks. Is there a term for guilt about being able to go outside? As I paced my childhood home in some sort of sad solidarity, I only felt worse. But the idea of hiking a trail or just walking around the yard felt exhausting to me. The trauma of March knocked me down hard. I spent the spring trying just to sleep through the night and not gasp for breath every time I woke up and remembered the world was radically changed.
After 6 weeks, my host sister was finally allowed to go for walks outside. Still, the old version of me who spent hours every week in the mountains was nowhere to be found. When I moved back to Laramie for the summer, I was finally beginning to feel like myself again. I wasn’t living out of a suitcase. I slept in my own bed. And when I finally got settled, I woke up one June morning and drove to the mountains. When I reached the trailhead, there was my ski team.
For all those afternoons of Spanish lockdown where I daydreamed about adventures outside, I hadn’t actually been out in the mountains since I’d gotten home. But that summer morning, I remembered what it felt like to be a part of an outdoor community. There was the whole SUS team, smiling at me. There were Christi and Rachel, ready to hear all about the last few months of my life on our run. There were all the other skiers I’d missed.
I took a deep breath. The air smelled like pine and sunlight and home. And I started to run. Slowly, that March girl started to melt away into the woods.
The week of nationals is always a trying time of the year for Nordic ski racers. I have had my fair share of stressful race weeks throughout a 15-year racing career ranging from junior nationals, to USCSA collegiate nationals, and a few endeavors overseas to the world university games. Nationals during the spring of 2020 was a new experience for me though, I would be approaching this week through a new perspective. I was now a coach.
While some races are forgotten almost as soon as they are over, others stick in the memory bank like klister to the base of a ski. I’m unsure exactly what criteria my brain chooses to filter which races are special enough to remember. Maybe it is specific accomplishments in the race, or events that unfolded between teammates within the race, or even such challenging conditions that grittiness plays a bigger factor than any wax ever could. I may never know exactly, but I do know that the 15km classic race in Lake Placed during nationals will forever stay in my mind. One of the few races that has made its way in since transitioning from athlete to coach.
That race started as it always does for coaches, in the wax room the night before. We had tested glide waxes over the racecourse at various times of the day, and finally decided on the perfect wax for the morning. The conditions were supposed to be very challenging the next day. Just about freezing, rain/snow, and as always in the east, very icy man-made trails. We needed wax that was warm, tough enough for surviving being slowly ripped off by ice for 15km, and that had the ability to repel dirt since it hadn’t snowed in a few days. Yellow black wolf was the choice for the day. My fellow coach Bryan and I spent hours in the wax room putting 3 layers of wax on each ski. A warm base wax to help open the ski pores, slightly cooler wax to harden the base, then the black wolf to make the skis rocket fast. The skis all still needed kick wax and structure (grooves in the ski base to help the ski base better repel water and reduce suction), but that was a job for the morning and for the wax goddesses Christi Boggs (snowflake) and Rachel Watson (the cougar). Rachel had been testing kick waxes all week long and had a series of waxes ready for the morning testing to hopefully find the perfect wax for our skiers.
We got to the racecourse about 2.5 hours before the race that morning and got to work. Bryan and I set up the waxing station while Christi and Rachel slapped on some wax and did initial tests on a few of the nearby hills. After they had narrowed in on the wax it was up to Bryan and I to test out some toppers, or the very last coat of wax applied. We went through our normal wax-testing motions. Ski a section of the course, change each ski to the other foot, ski again, trade with the other person, ski again, change skis to the other foot, and finally one person gets the best ski from each pair to hone in the best wax in the group. We are looking for how sticky the ski is, how much glide it has, if it changes drastically with different snow conditions (shady or sunny), how durable it is, and how it does in vs. out of the tracks. We had found what we were sure was going to be the winning wax but there was a problem, it had started precipitating. It felt like half snow half rain and was coming down in a way that we just knew would last all day.
Back at the wax bench we gave Rachel our wax recommendations. I could see a little panic in her face as she was contemplating the wax with the new weather conditions but being one of the most knowledgeable people about klister in the world we all have nothing but confidence for her incredible wax decisions. One of the best things about Christi is how she somehow manages to think of any possible options and have something up her sleeve to handle things as they come. So, while Rachel was thinking about endless klister combinations to give the skis the perfect combo of kick and glide, Christi sent Bryan and I back out to test both zeros and hairies. Zeros have a strip of what looks like sandpaper on the base where the wax pocket is, and hairies are made from roughing up a normal ski kick zone with sandpaper and then adding a hardening substance like silicon so that the hairs on the sanded surface stay standing. Both these options are used when the snow is right about 0 C and there is new snow falling. These options both turned out to have slightly worse kick than the klister, but seemingly better glide. We provided Christi and Rach with our new results and now the coaches race was about to start.
As the male athletes arrived (they raced first) and started warming up we gave them a few options about their race skis, slightly less glide but more kick or slightly less kick but more glide. It seemed like we had an almost even split of racers wanting klister, zeros, and hairies. We spent the next hour applying wax as fast as humanly possible. Rachel and Christi were applying klister, Bryan and I were preparing the zeros and the hairies while also adding structure to the glide zone of all the skis. As mass start classic waxing always happens, it was right down to the wire. We were finishing the last of the men’s skis as the racers were lining up to start, and I even ran the last pair down to one of our athletes named Leon and got him clipped in with about 2 minutes to go. They were off!
The weather did not let up throughout the men’s race. I believe the conditions that day were the most challenging racing conditions that exist in the world of Nordic skiing. Absolutely drenched from the rain, skiing through pine needles, leaves, and puddles, dealing with washed out icy downhills and chopped up slushy corners, the skiers all fought with everything they had. I have images burned in my mind of Nathan and Silas striding up the hill, both having great days but basically skiing blind from soaked hair in their eyes. Ben and Matthew were each slipping but showing what we lovingly call grit and giving the race everything they had anyways. All our racers from Shanghai, who had just started skiing that year, were looking so strong! Harry smiled as he ran past a racer from another team on the steep uphill I was standing on. Shortly after, Andy came whizzing by on a downhill right behind James and yelled at me “I didn’t fall this lap!”. It was easy to see how much fun everyone was having even though the conditions were less than ideal. A common theme began to appear. Every one of our skiers was actually enjoying themselves, despite the adverse weather, some not having much kick, and poor snow conditions.
Maybe this race stuck in my mind because it was such a hard day and yet all our athletes seemed to truly love being there in that moment. It’s easy to be happy as a racer when your skis are fast, the sun is shining, and you are feeling on top of your game. But is a true test of character to enjoy the race when every external factor sucks. I was so proud to be a part of the Wyoming team! After the guys finished they all changed clothes and got back out in the weather to cheer on the ladies. We went through the same waxing challenges with the ladies skis, but most of them ended on klister after getting tips from the guys. Ella looked strong and poised, Kat was beasting her way up the hills passing girl after girl, and Maddy was looking smooth in her stride, and gave me a confident smile when I cheered for her knowing there was a lot of double pole in this course which is one of her strong suits. The rest of the girls followed the same trend as the guys, each one looked in their element despite the rain still coming down strong.
While I have had very memorable racing days due to similar weather situations, that feeling of overcoming everything stacked against you and still racing to your fullest isn’t really something you can really explain or teach an athlete as a coach. That specific feeling must be earned. I think this day was so special to me because I got to watch each skier find that feeling through the 6 laps on the rain-soaked course. Getting to observe that growth from the coaching view was 1000 times better than any achievement I have had as an athlete. Even though the results from that day weren’t exactly what everyone was hoping for, it is still on of the favorite races of my life.
The hardest part of being on a high is falling back down. Peaking, in a sports setting, is where you take all of your training from the previous year and use it to preform at your most optimal. Peaking can make you feel invincible in your sport, but just a few days later you can feel at your lowest. As we went into our national competition we were prepared to peak, and then to fall off our peaks, but we were met with a new low.
COVID-19 was something so far from our minds as we traveled to Lake Placid, NY. We were giddy with the excitement of competing with our teammates in a much larger stage than we had all season. Our van was full of energy, as we sat with no masks much closer than six feet. Our team got to experience the last moments before COVID changed everything together. That is something that in reflection I am really grateful for, but I still wasn't prepared for such an abrupt ending.
In the middle of our week long competition we got some news that USCSA was canceling our last race, because New York state had declared a state of emergency. I've never fallen of my peak as fast as I did in that moment. My heart sank and my head fell along with the rest of my teammates. I am lucky that I had a close knit group to experience this disappointment with, but soon I wouldn't have them by my side.
After our final race, cut a day short, we packed into a caravan of rental cars and started the long drive from New York to Wyoming. It was a tough drive that spanned too many days for me, but there were some fond memories. I found myself in many restaurants across the nation sitting with what would now be too many people. I got to hug my friends and be in public without a mask. Things still now we aren't able to do. Those were the good memories, but the second we got back home it was different. Our goodbyes were abrupt and rushed. Thinking that we would just see one another next week at practice. We couldn't quite comprehend the fundamental changes that were about to happen. So that day I said a lot of my last goodbyes and it was hard.
SUS skiers and UW skiers alike were about to go their separate ways and hunker down for a quarantine. The freshmen were even kicked out of the dorms and had to return to their hometowns. For a while it felt like I wouldn't see my people ever again, and that was isolating. Going from having twenty people that new exactly how you were feeling by your side, to just a few people that made it into your bubble was a hard transition. And while I do regret my goodbyes not being ideal I try and focus on what was happening right before we went our separate ways. I'll treasures those times and let them warm my heart for years to come.
Sprint days can be one of the most draining race experiences for Nordic skiers. While the athletes are only racing for around 1k, they could participate in up to four races that can last all day. Fighting fatigue is the name of the game, and having endurance is as important as knowing how to sprint.
I've had an ever changing relationship with sprints though my ski career. It can be fun to ski fast, but also challenging to face the possibility of not moving on to the next round. Going from the qualifier, to the quarter finals, to the semi-finals, to the finals are little wins in themselves, but your day can be ended at any point. I've never felt such a spectrum of emotions as I do on a day full of sprints.
Knowing that the stakes are so high there is a constant background stress in the athletes' heads that can be temporarily soothed from a congratulations from a coach or the privilege of moving up to the next round. During the sprints at USCSA nationals I had more than background stress. This day was supposed to be my day, something I had trained a whole year for. I was nervous in every race that I started, and I feared I wouldn't find myself in the finals at the end of the day. For one of my rounds, the quarter finals, Lydia was in my heat. I was so concerned with my own performance that looking back I probably didn't offer Lydia the support that she needed in her first high stakes sprint race. I might have been a bad teammate, but she treated me with kindness in return. After our round, with our shaky legs and ragged breathing, Lydia found me and hugged me. With her hug she told me how amazing it was to race with me. She had followed me around the course letting my coach her just like it was an extra technique practice.
I wanted to cry as she told me all of these kind things about the experience we just had together. We had spent a whole ski season together, but this culminating event made me feel more close to her than I had before. English might have been a barrier for Lydia and I, yet she was able to tell me in the most beautiful way how happy she was that we had the chance to race together.
As I reflect on this moment, I realize that Lydia showed me the importance of having great teammates. In the sprint races I was so trapped in what I was going to do, yet Lydia saw the whole picture and made sure to give me the verbal persuasion that I needed in that moment to feel confident in my own performance. Thank you Lydia for sharing that sprint race with me and giving me a pep talk that I will look back on for years to come.
The first thing you should know about Mei is she is the most selfless person you will meet. Every single time I talked with Mei I left feeling better about myself. This is because she always wants to talk about YOU. I realized after our first couple of meetings Mei knew everything about me and could list all of my family by name and I knew very minimal things about her.
One night I decided to take Mei to Front Street and have drinks and dinner with the intent that I did not talk about myself ONCE that night. Every single tidbit of information about Mei is an incredible achievement. I learned there was nothing Mei could not do if she set her mind to it. She was older than the other SUS athletes because she was in what I understood as their national guard, she boxed, she did cheer, and she would never tell you any of that because she was always so focused on the other person. But, on this special night, key lime martini in hand, I got Mei to talk about herself. We talked about big things, what we wanted in life, who we wanted to be, and the little things like practice and team gossip. We finally got to talk about her Fiancé and what her wedding would look like (some seriously wild traditions going on there, including one where the groom has to find the bride's shoes).
The coaches did their best to pair the SUS up with alike personalities on our team, and I ended up getting paired with a mentor. I realized we share so many characteristics. One of the best ones I see in myself and Mei is our ability to move to the next thing. Mei’s life has already taken so many routes and she’s able to do it because she doesn’t dwell on the past. She leaps into the next challenge, throwing herself into it full-heartedly. I often question myself and my ability to stay committed to things, but Mei showed me it’s something to be proud of, there is no shame in tackling new challenges.
I hope Mei learned something from me because I learned so much from her. I was worried our different cultures would make it hard to really connect with our partners, but I was thankfully mistaken. That night with the key lime martinis, Mei became one of my best friends, we told each other everything and laughed late into the night. Mei helped me learn just how close we are to all the people around the world, I now know I could have best friends in every country. Mei taught me so many little and big things and I will never be able to truly thank her in a way she deserves, but I hope a couple key lime martinis was a good start.
At your home race there is the opportunity for spectators. Nordic skiing, particularly Nordic skiing in America, doesn't draw much of a crowd. Sure there are a few parents that take a weekend trip, or the families of citizen racers that stand along the course, but at your home race there are spectators there for you and your team.
It's always interesting to see the crowd that follows people to their home race. There are the parents proud to see their child racing in college. The dorm roommate that doesn't quite know what's going on, but is sure to cheer loud. Even once there were members of the UW triathlon team yelling as we skied by, because they could sympathize with not being a spectator sport.
In 2020 our home race drew a whole new crowd. Since the SUS program was created through the Kinesiology and Health Department we had a small showing of faculty and other SUS masters students that found themselves bundled up on Happy Jack's trails to watch a sport they had never seen before. Being in the craziness that came with adding ten brand new skiers to a team often made you blind to what was happening outside of that bubble. It was hard to see what we were creating when we were so deep inside, but that weekend I caught a glimpse.
The picture above shows our whole family we created. SUS and UW joined together to create a new, one of a kind, team. One of the Kinesiology faculty members took the picture as parents, citizen races, students, UW and SUS alike, cheered for what we had made. Such a hodgepodge of people from all different background yet we all had found this home that connected us together. Seeing the team and the support system that surrounds us is sometimes hard to do, but it becomes so highlighted at a home race.
Two years ago, when I learned that ten athletes from Shanghai University of Sport with no Nordic ski experience were going to join or ski team to learn to ski, I had no idea what to expect. Part of me was excited. I knew I had a lot to learn from these athletes about Chinese language and culture. Another part of me was nervous. I worried that adding 10 athletes to our tight-knit team of about 15 skiers would throw off the team dynamics that made UW Nordic feel like a family to me. I also worried that we would no longer be able to receive the attention and advice from our coaches that we all deserved.
Two years ago I could have never imagined what this experience would mean to me. Maybe I could have pictured myself cooking and eating hot pot with James, learning the Chinese words for my favorite vegetables, and running around shouting “xi lanhua!” (broccoli). Maybe I could have also imagined learning regional variations on my Chinese favorite cuss words with Andy. But there were a lot of things that surprised me about my experience skiing with the SUS athletes.
In retrospect, my fears of no longer receiving technique advice and coaching seem silly, because if anything, it was the opposite. I think back to one particular practice on a Wednesday in February. The team split into two groups: those excited and healthy enough to do intervals, and the those who preferred to ski easy and work on technique. I was feeling tired and chose the latter group along with several of the SUS skiers. Our goal for the day was to practice cornering on downhills, specifically right-hand turns. Conveniently, this was one of my weakest points as a skier. Having only recently started skiing, I got by on the strength and endurance I had built as a distance runner rather than the finesse and technique that come from years on skis. As such when, Coach Nathan asked me to demonstrate how I would ski our first corner, I was astonished and nervous. We had chosen a relatively easy corner to begin but it was a corner I had never skied particularly well before. Even though I wasn’t confident in my ability, I knew the SUS athletes looked up to me, regarding me as an experienced skier. I knew couldn’t let them down so I tried to appear confident and convince myself I could do it. I stood starting at the trail scouting out my route, took a deep breath, and took off toward the outside edge of the trail before cutting sharply in and skiing through the corner relatively gracefully. I smiled as I came to a stop and skied back toward my teammates, secretly quite proud of myself for how well I skied. That day, with every corner each athlete skied, I could see their improvement and an increase in their confidence. The confidence I could see in them boosted my own confidence as well.
I’ve always known that teaching is the best way to learn just about anything, but I’ve only recently come to understand just how powerful that can be. Being a mentor and a teammate to these athletes was so much more than I could have imagined, and I just hope their experience on this team was even half as meaningful as my own.
It was a sunny morning on January 26, and we participated in the relay race at Fraser. This competition made me very excited, because this is the first time that our SUS team has participated in the relay race. It is different from previous competitions. This relay race is 1.8km x 9 laps of skate skiing. There are three people in a team, one lap per person and then the next person. My teammates are Fredy and Dreak, we warm up together, and then carry our bags to the race venue. When we arrived at the venue, we saw that the women ’s relay race was about to start. Watching a tense and exciting game was really exciting. Maddy, Kat, and Ella were a very strong combination. They worked hard to make the game I see the blood boiling! Cowgirls are so cool! In the end they won first!
Okay, let's start our cowboys performance. I am the second player of the team and Dreak is the first player. When I saw him sliding towards me, my adrenaline soared and I went all out. Slippery, I can also see later that I tried my best on the first lap, because I was super slow LOL in the next two laps, and with Fredy's final sprint, we ended the relay race. But we did not leave, but gathered at the finish line to cheer for the last skier. After he crossed the finish line, the whole audience cheered him! I think this is the charm of sports!The team game feels different from that of the individual game. It's not so nervous, it's more exciting and happy! An unforgettable game!
The first time I felt the power of team working is in the Tetonia，1/10/2020. That's the first long distance race we attend，15classic skiing race. The weather makes the race become special and petty cold. I'm really afraid of cold. But that day I am not aware of it. When we ready to start，it began to snow，and it got bigger and bigger. The big snowflakes made us lose the direction. At that time I try to find the right track，and I heard Mei shout at me，"I can't see the track，the snow is so big". I'm ahead of her，and I shout"follow me，Mei，I can find the track". And then we skied together，when we met our coaches，Christi and Rachael，they said"good job，girls，work together". And then we know our did are right. After 5k，the snow stopped，Bur I feel pretty terrible，because my legs are so weaken. Mei said "follow me，Simona，we can do it". "Yes，I said" I just follow her，keep the same pace with her… When we finished the race，I feel very cold，and I realized the cold feeling disappear when we did the race. That's so amazing. When I follow her，I only think how to follow her，how to defeat the race. After I finished all the race，I try to recall this memory，I feel very happy，and it also make me so warm. That experience let me know the importance of team working. I think I will bring it to the career of my sport. Try to spread it with my team and my athletes. Try to let everyone had own good memory. Let them warm.
During the Thanksgiving camp in Leadville, the team had many interesting things to remember. The best memory for me is that I and the coaches have finished the 21km long loop. I was shocked and I felt funny and ridiculous. Because when I saw someone, I just blindly followed. Because I waxed my skis very late, when I finished waxing and was going to catch up with the SUS teammates, I couldn’t find them, but I saw the coaches across the street, I quickly caught up and joined their team.
I started skiing with the coaches. But I didn’t know it was 21 km and I really hoped to find my teammates after following the coaches. Afterward, I found out my SUS teammates didn’t participate in the 21 km loop. They practiced classic techniques in the streets of Leadville and returned home early to rest. The next day we still had a 5 km classic race.
Recalling the weather that day, it was very cold and the wind was very strong, like a blizzard. This is the first time I have skied this long a distance since I learned to ski and this was even farther than I have ever ran in the past. I didn’t prepare for such a long training time, I did not bring a water bag backpack. Earlier, Christi was always by my side and encouraged me, I just followed the pace of Christi. I had been trying hard to follow the big team. During the break, Ben, one of the UW skiers, approached me and handed me his water to let me drink and told me there was still a long way to go. The coaches and Ben always looked back at me, afraid I would get lost, encouraged me and asked about my physical condition. In the later period, I couldn’t keep my physical strength and fell behind, Ben let me ski in front of him, he followed behind me. He made me feel pressure behind me, I was afraid to reduce his speed, so I tried to go too fast and accidentally fell down when I increased the speed. Also Ben was tripped by me. Then I let Ben ski in front of me, he always stopped and waited for me when we are far apart. I said, “I am coming!” Ben turned around and said to me, “I know.” We kept going and met the coach who was waiting for us and we finished the 21 km together.
When I returned to the room to check the phone message, my teammates discussed me in the Nordic group, worried about where I went all morning. I felt guilty and made them worry about me. But I still think this team is very lovely and warm. This experience really made me realize the importance of communication.
Time flies, I have been here for 8months . But I still remember every happy moments with teammates, coaches in here ,especially the first camp in Nebraska. We stayed in Nebraska three days , everyday was amazing. The first day We driven about 5hours to three . it was really long for me , but not boring at all . We talked each other, watched the scenery on the rode. When we got there, there was a beautiful snowing lawn near our house . we did classic skiing, which was very important day for me . I leaned how to stride in that day. After training, we cooked together, had dinner together. It really helped team building . The second day , we did intervals uphill training ,which was very hard . Because the uphills are pretty steep, and with snowing,also we have to do 45min without stop. But everyone did their best to make it, I proud of them . In the afternoon, it was rest time ，but actually it was homework time for my American teammates, they had so many homework in college ， that’s different from Chinese college. In the night, I fished one of my goals in here. Arm wrestling with teammates :) I like arm wrestling when I was a little. In that time , my roommates were Nathan K, Trevor harry Fredy. It was fun to live with them for two nights. The third day , we did a combined race . We ran 3k and then rolled skiing 5k . For me the running part was nice , but the roller skiing part was terrible.I too nervous to use V2 . I used double pole whole race ，which was much slower than V2 . Also , in that downhill, it was super scary for me , I almost fall . But anyway, I finished the race . After race , we driven back to Laramie. From now to Review the past , it was impressive ， those moments, they will live in my heart forever
, thanks for my coaches ，teammates , everyone.
Our team has the amazing privilege of being funded by donors that care about creating opportunities for college athletes to ski. While all of the athletes work hard through hours and hours of fundraising it would mean nothing if donations weren't made for our efforts. Getting to travel around the nation to race with barley paying a penny is an opportunity that very few receive, but the members of UW Nordic know what that's like.
Every year to thank some of our largest donors we host a benefit dinner. The UW team spends all day cooking a multicourse meal for fifteen to twenty guests that have shown support for our team in the past. While being a rewarding night, it can't be done without hard work.
Preparation starts far before dinner time, and in 2020 it started almost a week before when one of my teammates Kat and I decided to take the SUS skiers shopping for dinner attire. I don't think we knew the half of what we'd be getting ourselves into, as we spend a good chunk of an afternoon sorting through clothes on racks and shuffling our SUS teammates in and out of the dressing room. It was an experience full of laughs and tired feet from trying on one too many pairs of heel, but at last we had them dressed for success.
The day of the Benefit dinner way crazy, but it was always crazy. You're surrounded by the chaos of hot pans, people running to refill drinks, and food that just needs two more minutes in the oven. In between the courses we take a moment to introduce ourselves to all of the guests. Telling them tidbits about where we're from and what we're studying. It lets our donors see who they are helping. This year our donors got to see even more though. They were helping fund a team that was hosting ten skiers from Shanghai and man they could bring a tear to your eye with the gratitude they expressed for their opportunity. It was an amazing showcase of out team, both new and old. It was one of the first times our new expanded team had been showcased, and it allowed everyone to have a moment to see what we were working so hard for.
Time flies when you’re having fun. I've been here for a year and a half. I still remember when I first came here, I cannot adapt to the life here and wanted to go home very much. After a long time, gradually I began to like here, not only the surrounding environment, but also the people around me. A year passed quickly, we left too many beautiful memories in this small lovely place. We trained together, we played together, we cooked together... It's all fresh in my memory.
This year's season is coming to an end, there are too many memories. One of the memories impresses me is that we did the leaf raking together. It's the annual tradition of the ski team to clean the fallen leaves. We use this way to raise money for competitions. Although it is not mandatory, we all want to make contributions to the team through our own efforts. The process of sweeping leaves is full of fun. Although we were very tired, we have to go to several families to clean their yards one day, but everyone is very enthusiasm. The sense of accomplishment after cleaning makes me forgot my fatigue! In the end, we've raised more money than in the past few years and everyone is satisfied with their contribution to the team!
Dan Yan (Doris)
Being in UW's homecoming parade was something that previous generations on the ski team used to do, but I hadn't gotten to be a part of it yet. This year, with our ever-growing team, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to showcase who we were. Waking up the morning of the parade it was a little chilly and we stood in the parking lot decorating our van, Zima. We'd bought window makers the night before, possibly testing them out on a few of our teammates cars just to make sure they worked, and we wrote all over the windows. Lydia, one of the SUS skiers, wrote snow in Chinese on the back just to add a little touch for our SUS skiers. To be as festive as we could I ran around giving sparkles to anyone that wanted them. Nordic skiers often put sparkles under their eyes by applying chapstick to our faces to stick on the cheap glitter. I was excited at the reaction that I was getting from the SUS skiers as I was doing this. They were all giddy as they asked me to put glitter on their faces, even the boys. I'd been so used to watching my previous male teammates run from me the second I got my glitter bag out, and I was happy for the change. I felt as though I was growing a little closer to my new teammates, literally and figuratively, as I gave them glitter. Nothing bonds you better than touching each other's faces.
As the parade started we put on our roller skis and proudly circled Zima down through the main streets of Laramie. We seemed like kids in a candy shop as we zipped around on such smooth asphalt. That feeling is something that makes nordic skiers' weak in their knees, and our SUS skiers were starting to feel that as well. We weaved in between our teammates all laughing as we thought about how funny we must look to the parade patrons. We did a few little sprints down the street to catch up to the floats in front of us if we fell behind receiving cheers from the viewers watching from their camping chairs. Looking back on this memory makes me think about how important it is to have those days where you just are goofy and you soak up the time together seeing everyone's' smiles. I'm grateful for this time that we got to share and it still brings a smile to my face to think about that chilly homecoming morning.
I’ve got a head full of memories of times with the SUS team. Some of my favorites are ones that happened early on; I was so nervous to meet Leon, my partner, until we exchanged gifts and names and handshakes abound. I was so enamored when we all jumped rope in coaches’ driveway after a shared team dinner, the more daring of us eschewing our shoes for better aerodynamics so that we could all jump through the same rope, one at a time. Andy, Doris, Simona, and Lydia invited Silas and I over for dinner once, before they even really knew us. It felt like a family.
There is something different about Andy, though. I don’t know why it is that I feel closest to him; I contemplate this. He is still willing to make me dinner (I live with him now) for some reason, but all the SUS kids were like that: so giving, and so easy to give to. I learned a lot from them that I feel that the West side of the globe really lacks. Always quick to loan out a spare buff, never letting another skier race alone, and always offering an open ear despite disparate languages. The SUS skiers are selfless. I called them kids, but really, they were more mature than I was. (And older, too, anyway.)
Everyone’s English improved immensely from the first time I met them to the time we said goodbye. Andy still teaches me Chinese, but I think he sees more potential in me than is really there. I am illiterate in the Far East. Sometimes I wonder, during conversations with mutual friends, how much he really picks up. Every time, though, he is ready to chime in with a Chinese-icized American witticism, and I’m so happy with how much we have been able to show each other. I almost feel guilt around him. He does so much for me, and I’m at a loss for ways to pay him back. I have to go, the water’s boiling, it’s time to throw the noodles in. I must dry my eyes, though; this recipe doesn’t call for salt.
Lan Jia Hui
The big thing to do if you live in Laramie is to climb Medicine Bow Peak. From the top, on a clear day you can look all the way from the Snowy Range to the town of Laramie. With an elevation of 12,000ft the climb to the top of Medicine Bow Peak can be straining to some, especially for our new SUS friends that came from basically sea level. The base our team has always been adventure training. Being able to get out, climb mountains, swim lakes, bike to another town, anything with a large goal that sounds like fun. Every previous year that I'd been on the team we'd run up around and down Medicine Bow Peak, once even in a blizzard. Even it sometimes it was type two fun, I always enjoyed climbing mountains with my team. The day that we drove the SUS skiers up to the Snowy Range I think there was some apprehension from all of us. They were still adjusting to our high Laramie altitude, and we were about ready to make them go even farther.
Our goal was to get everyone to the summit, and we made a game plan to make sure no one was left behind. The abilities of the people the UW team has always spanned a wide range, now more than ever with our new teammates. We planned to go up separate ways dropping our SUS skiers off at a parking lot closer to the summit so they wouldn't have to do the full loop. While they struggle, strained, and breathed hard to make it to the top they all did it. It's one of the things that I love most out this team. We want to make sure that everyone is included in the goal of our adventure. While I may take being able to run up Medicine Bow Peak for granted, it's not that easy for all. It was amazing to see all of our new skiers in the parking lot at the end of our adventure. We all sat and ate out snacks and stretched together smiles on our faces because we call had accomplished something great that day. That day I was really shown the grit that our whole team had. Today we were climbing a mountain, tomorrow we'd be skiing a marathon, and in just a few short months we'd be on our ways to Nationals
We are hitting our quadruped training block, in which we start to run with poles, when the motions of running start to feel more and more like skiing. Today’s midweek adventure run took us to Happy Jack. This run turned out to be the perfect time for me to reflect more on ski culture, something I have been meaning to take time to do since reading Rachel’s most recent blog post. Upon reflection on and after the run, a word repeatedly swelled up in my thoughts, a word which I couldn’t help but realize embodied precisely what ski culture means to me.
This is admittedly an interesting word and feeling to associate with a sport which puts us in the coldest of elements and places.
The majority of the run today was spent in a lack of conversation, something that doesn’t normally happen on our group workouts, but made for the perfect storm of thoughts and time for reflection in my own head. Although saying there was a lack of conversation may sound like a lonely or odd energy between the team, it was quite the opposite. As we ran along, I felt a stronger than usual connection between myself and my teammates.
My arms swung in a pendulum motion bringing my poles along with each of my strides. My hearing focused in on the clicking of the whole groups poles on the ground in front of and behind me.
I felt the shambled cork of my pole grips as we ran along. This set of poles have been with me for quite a while now. A pair of green and silver One Way’s, which were passed on to me by one of my high school coaches. These poles have accompanied me on a great variety of workouts, from easy runs to workouts which by the end left these poles as the only thing holding me from collapsing to the ground, witnessing me in my most exhausted state.
This almost methodical ticking of poles on the trail slowly subsided any residing feelings of overwhelm from the day, any general stress from life load. I became grounded, in a way only training seems to be able to do at times. I can only describe this grounding feeling as warmth.
This feeling of warmth was different from the feeling of warmth my swix coat or buff gave me on this run. It was a warmth I felt in my gut. A warmth to my core that reconnected me to my deep love of the sport of nordic skiing and this team that I was running in a pack with. It brought me back once again to why simply being a nordic skier makes up such a large piece of my identity. I was so content to be running with this group, all of whom I know hold similar identities as skiers, all in slightly different ways, which creates a strong team synergy.
As Ella lead the group through the trails of Happy Jack, I thought about how many countless miles she has put into these trails. I felt no resistance whatsoever to just follow in her stride wherever she decided to take us, a feeling when training with a team that I have recently realized how much I take for granted. So much freedom comes with that feeling of just being able to fall into a rhythm with the group. This freedom comes with a lack of worry. A lack of worry about finding the next turn or about whether we are going to go for the right amount of time. The group energy just seems to guide us the right way at times.
Between Ella and myself was Leon. I couldn’t help being brought back to Christi and Rachel’s discussion with us about how we would find more in common with the SUS team than we might have initially expected simply though the common athlete culture. As I ran behind Leon, our strides almost perfectly in sync, I found yet another feeling of warmth in how this created such a substantial connection between anyone at any given time in this simultaneously individual and team sport.
The last minutes of the run, the fog began to really set into the dips of the hills and valleys as we made our way through the engulfed terrain.
This image, of the daylight fading and the fog of the first snow clouds settling in, may have seemed quite dark and cold to some. But somehow the energy of it all, catalyzed by this team, by this sport, was simultaneous comforting and exhilaration. We were running through the first signs of winter, of the season ahead. I’ve realized that each season brings similar patterns, filled in with different details. Those details will soon unfold before this years group, adventures and memories to come that are not even thoughts yet.
After we all re-grouped at the vans, people began changing base layers and piling back into the two vehicles. I quickly realized how familiar the smell of the heaters and the warmth of the air was, senses I hadn’t felt since last winter. These senses have accompanied me all over the region and even country over my years of skiing. From the middle school ski club vans, to the airport busses in Chicago and New York taking us to the larger competitions over the last few years. This warmth of car heaters after a workout in the cold was a different kind of warmth. It brought a comfort that carried over the years and different environments. An indication that another day of training was complete, with various teams over time, but always with that common core. The core that has grown up with me, raised me, seen my greatest battles and greatest growths. The core that has kept me warm.
Before snow session,we have a super fun adventure in Happy Jack every Wednesday
,it’s usually about one and half hours or two hours.It’s really different from run in the track.Meanwhile,it’s different from run in sea level.I still remember my first time run in Happy Jack,it’s also my first cross-country running.Before running,I felt exciting and looked forward to it,because it was new thing I have never tried before.After our coach Christi told us we have two groups to follow,one faster,one slower.Of course,boys should take the faster group.Although I knew my aerobic capacity is not as good as other teammates,I still wanted to try.Finally I found out that I was wrong.The boys are so fast from beginning to end,especially when they went down the hill,I couldn’t keep up with them, my heart rate are really high and I had to slow down.I told my partner Bryan about my situation and he told me I should keep my intensity below zoom 3.At that moment I wasn’t understand zoom very clearly, I still believe training hard and gain more.Bryan asked me to slow down and follow him.I felt much better.He explained reasons to me during running,because we want to develop our aerobic capacity,we need to keep our running long duration and low intensity,if I run in high heart rates,I can’t hold on for so long.In the future training,I never run as that fast,I keep my own pace because I know training smart is more important than training hard.
As school had began to pick up and our new SUS skiers and American teammates began to be more intergraded into the team they were introduced to our weekly Wednesday adventures. It was a time during the week that we could go for longer runs or skies together. This Wednesday we went to the upper parking lot of Happy Jack and when we arrived there was a beautiful rainbow in the sky. It made me think, as I looked at this huge team that surrounded me, I was grateful to share this beautiful view with them and all the views that were to come. As we began to run that day we were still trying to work out some bumps in the road with our adjustment to having our SUS teammates there. We didn't want them to get lost as we set them loose into the woods that I barley knew myself. We began to settle a little as all of the SUS skiers grouped up with someone that knew where they were going and we all slowly jogged along... or most of us went slowly. There was some small communication errors as one of the SUS boys, Harry, ran off with some of our fastest Americans. While he was running, with his heart rate probably a little too high, I was running with a small group of girls and one our our coaches, Christi. As we ran along, we'd stop every once in a while to grab a drink and chat about how we should be feeling and where our heart rates should be. I don't know if any of the SUS girls understood a thing that we said, but they still followed us blindly. Looking back I now see how much their language skills have grown since we first met them. We finally ended our run tired but happy and we started to wait for some of our boys that had ran a little further. Harry was with those boys and I think we were all a little nervous about his well being. Many minutes later we saw heads bobbing up over the hills. Harry was trailing behind a little. When they reached the parking lot he admitted that he had chosen a group that was a little too fast for him and he wasn't in the correct heart rate zone. I think that day there were a few things learned about how to train smarter not harder.
When my SUS teammates made their first appearance in Laramie, I had no idea what it meant for the team or myself. As an incoming freshman, I had only been to a few team events when we had the barbeque to meet our new team members. Many of my older teammates had been talking with the new skiers before this, but I only had a vague idea of what SUS was and about the exchange that would be taking place. I had no idea that we would spend the next year forming deep friendships and learning lessons from each other about things far more meaningful than just ski technique. That first night, things began as you would expect. There were introductions and then lots of hand gesturing small talk as we all started to get to know each other and attempted to overcome language barriers. It was friendly, but everyone seemed hesitant, not quite sure how to act as a team when we knew so little about each other. I don’t know who it was that pulled out the jump rope after dinner, but somehow that changed things. Within a few minutes, the whole team was standing on the pavement outside of our coaches’ house. With a teammate from China on one side of the rope and a teammate from the U.S. on the other, we began to jump. In that moment, all of the uncertainty was gone. It seems appropriate looking back. That jump rope was so symbolic of what was to come, the way that SUS and UW would become tied together. The way we are all still connected, even though many of our teammates are now at home in China. Writing about my teammates from China has reminded me of the many special, small moments that helped create this connection. I think back to our very first days on snow, when the Chinese athletes were still learning the art of skiing, and I am still wowed by their willingness to try something so unknown. I can taste the feasts of Chinese and American food that we ate together, often not knowing exactly what we were eating, but enjoying it all the same. I wonder if they miss running on dirt, surrounded by trees, instead of in circles on a track, something that amazed them all the first time we did it. I remember explaining every food at the Thanksgiving table to Murong and I hear the Chinese songs that were sung at the Thanksgiving talent show, when we all spent hours eating, laughing, and performing in Dick and Ev’s living room. I remember hearing about everyone’s families back in China, how my teammates missed them, but also how they would miss us when they returned. When I think back on all of these things, it is with gratitude for the way that the SUS-UW connection shaped my first year on the team. I hope that the bond that was formed in the short year that we had to train and learn together stays with each of us. I know that all of us, whether we are in Laramie or Shanghai, are better because of it.
This story is the process from learning Roller Ski to participating in the national competition. Recalling the first time I learned roller ski and skiing, everything seemed to be yesterday. In these experiences, I was very impressed that I went to snow for the first time to learn to ski. I always wrestled without taking a few steps. Every time my wrestling, my teammates laughed. It always feels easy to watch others skiing, but it feels not so easy when skiing on your own. Whenever training is tiring, everyone creates some fun. Whenever I see the smiling face of a teammate, I always think that no matter who he meets, he should be the one who should appear in your life. It is no accident that he will teach you something. Therefore, I believe that wherever I go, that is where I should go, experience what I should experience, and get to know the people I should know.
Every great story has to begin somewhere. While I could have pick the moment when we first found out we would be adding ten athletes from the Shanghai University of Sport (SUS) to our team, or when we first saw pictures of them all, or when we met for the first time, I want to choose the moment when we put them on roller skis. Our ten new teammates had quite the athletic pasts at SUS, but they had no knowledge of Nordic Skiing. They had bravely decided to devote a year of their life to learning everything that they could about the sport, and me and the rest of the team was there to support them. The first day we all met we made quick work of getting them on roller skies, a ski roller blade hybrid that Nordic skiers use to train when there is no snow. That day I found myself literally supporting my SUS ally, Murong, as she wobbled on our strange equipment. Being a Nordic skier myself for almost ten years now I was scared for my new teammates. The majority of the Nordic community sees rollers skis as an evil necessity. We need them to keep our training going in the summer, but the taste of pavement in a crash is a lot worse than snow. Even with the nerves that I had for them they showed none as they took their first strides and falls on roller skis. I ran next to Murong as she quickly progressed past my expectations with a smile on her face. After that day I was scared that we wouldn't get them to do it again, but there they were happy as ever the next day at practice.